The Run Larapinta Stage Race brought the Red Centre alive as trail runners completed four stages over four days through the challenging terrain of the west MacDonnell Ranges on the iconic Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory.
The event finished yesterday 24th April with many accomplishments gained and memories made in the heart of Australia with 130 participants racing on the trails each day in an event that was postponed from 2020 due to COVID-19 last year.
Featuring two different course lengths, The Malbunka (long course) with stages of 20km – 41km each day and The Namatjira (short course) with stages of 11km – 26km; which see runners from across the country attracted to the event each year.
Stage 1 took place on the outskirts of Alice Springs with a twilight run to The Old Telegraph Station on Wednesday 21 April. Considered a warm-up for the next three stages, competitors ran on the twisting trails leading to an energetic finish line beside the Todd River.
“I felt energized running out there… with the sun setting, the stars coming out and the Red Centre landscape around me, it is a mesmerizing experience; I feel better than I’ve felt for two years – since I was last up here for the event!,” commented Namatjira competitor Laurent Rosignol.
The following day saw an early start for Stage 2 with runners completing the most challenging of the stages with a point-to-point from Simpson Gap (Malbunka) and The Old Hamilton Downs Station (Namatjira), finishing at Stanley Chasm.
The reward for effort was ten-fold as competitors encountered loose rocks, switchback climbs and endless rocky tails as they traversed a particularly remote section of the course.
“Stage 2 lived up to its’ reputation as one of the toughest but most rewarding races of any runner’s career and we congratulate all who completed the course,” said Rapid Ascent General Manager Sam Maffett.
Day three on Friday 23 April began near the Birthday Waterhole for both course lengths, before finishing once again at the serene Stanley Chasm. The stage was new for 2021 which took runners up the steep side of Brinkley’ Bluff which tops out at 1210m above sea level – summiting the highest peak in the race that providing remarkable views in all directions.
“Runners gave Stage 3 the big thumbs saying it was another spectacular route through the MacDonnell Ranges with views from the top stretch to the very edge of this vast continent, taking your breath away in more ways than one,” said Maffett.
The final day of racing on Saturday 24 April saw participants treated to one of the most scenic sections of the Larapinta trails including another ‘take your breath away’ moment as runners climbed to the iconic Counts Point lookout, before an emotional finish at Ellery Creek Waterhole that saw many cheers and tears.
“We all kept pinching ourselves at the finish line with the ancient gorge and waterhole setting the backdrop for what must be one of the most spectacular finish lines known to man,” commented Maffett. “But right now all runners have a deep feeling of satisfaction and relief at having completed 4 days of super hard, super rocky but super spectacular running in the heart of Australia; well done to all competitors.”
A presentation ceremony capped off the final night with many war stories shared and a highlights reel of images playing in the background which was put together by event photographer Matt Hull from The Matt Image.
The Malbunka long course was won in a total four-stages time of 15:10:10 by John Robinson of Victoria; with Erika Lori from Western Australia clocking a total time of 14:55:16 to be crowned our overall Champion.
The Namatjira short course was won by Nothern Territory’s Hansie Muller and Georgina Beech, in a total four-stages time of 9:29:00 and 10:40:47, respectively.
Participants experienced these breathtaking trails in the heart of the West MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs to magical places such as Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, and Birthday Waterhole; with Ellery Creek Waterhole being a highlight on the final day of racing with many finishers jumping in the water to cool off.
Irrespective of speed or race times, Run Larapinta is more of an overall experience; it’s about the accomplishment and the journey, and making new trail running friends in a friendly race environment. Every participant gave it their all; with many ticking off life-long goals and breaking through personal and mental barriers. No doubt a return to Alice Springs in 2022 may be on the cards for this group!
The next Run Larapinta Stage Race is set for 26 – 29 August 2021 with entries having already reached capacity earlier this year. Rapid Ascent have a self-imposed field limit of 200 runners to preserve the experience for all runners.
Winning Total Times across the four stages are listed.
The Malbunka – Long Course Overall Standings MALE
- John Robinson 15:10:10 (VIC)
- Gavin Green 16:23:43 (VIC)
- Thomas Cartledge 16:45:45 (NT)
The Malbunka – Long Course Overall Standings FEMALE
- Erika Lori 14:55:16 (WA)
- Hayley Teale 16:27:47 (QLD)
- Victoria Cole 16:38:49 (VIC)
The Namatjira – Short Course Overall Standings MALE
- Hansie Muller 9:29:00 (NT)
- Thierry Morin 10:33:23 (VIC)
- Laurent Rossignol 10:34:51 (VIC)
The Namatjira – Short Course Overall Standings FEMALE
- Georgina Beech 10:40:47 (NT)
- Kimberley Robson 11:02:44 (NT)
- Amy Stockwell 11:04:47 (NT)
For the full list of Overall Results and Stage Results CLICK HERE